HUMBOLDT — For Nathan Oystrick, the coach of the Humboldt Broncos, his team’s first regular season outing on the ice was a step forward.
“Now we just keep building on that,” he told media after the Sept. 12 game.
The game was also the first time the Broncos faced the Nipawin Hawks since the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League semifinals. It was when the Broncos were preparing to the Hawks for Game 5 on April 6 that a semi-truck collided with the team bus, leaving 16 dead.
The Hawks won against the Broncos 2-1. All of the goals were made in the second period, with Michael Clarke of the Broncos scoring the first goal two minutes in. That was answered with Hawks goals by Cole Beamin and Jeremy Bisson 14:39 and 18:07 into the period, respectively.
“We played a pretty good game for the first little while,” Oystrick said, adding he thought they had a really good first period. “Second period, we had some tough times. We lost the game within 10 minutes.
"All in all, I thought it was a good game.”
Starting the game off was a puck drop made by members of last year’s Broncos, along with former assistant coach Chris Beaudry. Oystrick told media it had an effect.
“It was emotional, as I’m sure it was for everybody else, but we battled through it. I think the guys did a really good job,” the coach said. “Once the puck dropped, the guys knew what to do.”
After the game, a memorial ceremony was held to remember those that died and honour those that survived. Banners were unfurled by local representatives of the first responder services.
“We realize that while you carry the excitement, you’ve also carried some weight – the weight of this event,” Kevin Grainger, the team’s former president, told the audience. “I know that tonight is deeply emotional for everybody here – and for so many who are not here but who have supported our team, our families, and dreamed along with us.”
Grainger said the community support leading up to the first game of the season was nothing short of inspiring.
“It is because we are together, because we have leaned on each other as family would, that we are able to take the steps necessary for us to move forward,” he said. “While we know that the darkness is much less, it will never truly leave us as it holds the love that we have for those that are no longer with us and the love for those that have been impacted by this tragedy.”
Scott Thomas, the father of Evan Thomas, spoke on behalf of the affected families. He thanked everybody from the players, coaches and community right down to those that sewed quilts, donated to the GoFundMe campaign, organized fundraisers, left sticks by their doors and even those that felt something as a result of the collision.